The Rev. G. Thompson (Tommy) Brown — a “missionary kid” born in China who grew to become on the Presbyterian Church’s foremost experts on world Christianity — died Jan. 21 in his home at Park Springs Communities in Stone Mountain, Ga. He was 92.
Born in 1921 in Kuling (now Lushan), Jiangxi Province, China, to Presbyterian missionaries, Brown grew up in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, China, until returning to the U.S. for higher education. A graduate of Davidson (N.C.) College in 1942 and Princeton Theological Seminary in 1950 (after serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II), Brown earned his Ph.D. from Virginia Theological Seminary (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) in 1963.
After serving a two-year pastorate in Gastonia, N.C., following his graduation from Princeton, Brown served as a Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) missionary to Korea from 1952–1973. He served as president of Ho Nam Theological Seminary in Kwangju, Korea, from 1961–1967.
He was so loved by Korean Presbyterians that a popular dining spot on the Ho Nam campus is named the T. Brown Café.
From 1967–1980 Brown served as Director of the Division of International Mission for the PCUS. Immediately preceding the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick. He went from there to Columbia Theological Seminary, where he served as professor of world Christianity until his retirement in 1989. He donated his personal papers to Columbia and they are now housed in various collections in the seminary’s library.
Among his published works are five books: Earthen Vessels and Transcendent Power: American Presbyterians in China, 1837-1952 (Orbis Books, 1997); Christianity in the People's Republic of China (John Knox Press, 1983); Mission to Korea (Presbyterian Church of Korea, 1984); Presbyterians in World Mission (CTS Press, 1995); Face to Face: Meditations on the Life Everlasting (Geneva Press, 2001); and How Koreans are Reconverting the West (Xlibris Corporation, 2008).
Legacy, Frank A. Brown of China, a book about his missionary father, was translated and published in China. His book How the Koreans are Reconverting the West was translated and published in Korea last year.
A memorial service for Tommy Brown will be held Sunday, Jan. 26 at 3:00 p.m. at Decatur Presbyterian Church. There will be a lot to remember.